Photo courtesy of the Manchester Evening News.
David Boyce has diabetes. He was sanctioned for five months by the Department for Work and Pensions, which meant he had no money whatsoever to meet his basic needs. As a result, he had to sell his belongings, but couldn’t afford to eat properly and subsequently had to have his leg amputated, as his medical condition spiralled out of control. A healthy diet is essential as part of the management and treatment for diabetes.
David was a photographer who used to own a business, but was forced to give up his work because of ill-health. There was a dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about his jobseeker’s agreement and he was sanctioned numerous times.
David said that his benefits were frozen fourteen times because of “issues with paperwork.”
However, it’s clear that the sanctions happened because of a flawed decision-making process on the part of the DWP and he won an appeal which successfully overturned every sanction, with support from Salford’s Unemployed and Community Resource Centre. He was eventually awarded the money that had been wrongfully withheld from him
The government have claimed that benefit sanctions are an “incentive” to “help” people like David into work. However, David has been pushed even further away from the job market, because he’s now been left with a greater degree of disability: horrifically, the sanctions have cost him his leg.
David said that by July, complications from diabetes had already caused irreversible damage. His health deteriorated because he had no money to live on: he couldn’t control his insulin intake and was unable to follow his strict diabetic diet.
Subsequently he suffered diabetic ulcers and was diagnosed with the flesh-eating infection, necrotizing fasciitis, and doctors were forced to amputate one of his legs.
He told the Manchester Evening News: “I suffered from depression and mental anxiety. I’m not a rich man. I had to sell everything to eat.
You don’t tell anyone, it’s embarrassing, that’s what they prey on.
You go into a depression. You lock yourself away.”
David Boyce’s tragic case was revealed as protesters gathered to demonstrate against the extremely punitive and irrational Jobcentre conditionality rules and welfare sanctions.
Campaigners gathered at Eccles Job Centre this week to protest against the immoral benefits sanctions. They said that scores of people were being left depressed and on the verge of suicide.
David’s horrific experience is not an isolated case, sadly. Many campaigners have reasonably demanded an inquiry since the death of former soldier David Clapson, who also had diabetes. David died of ketoacidosis because he couldn’t take his insulin. He was also starving, after being sanctioned for missing a single Job Centre meeting. The coroner said that he hadn’t eaten for at least three days prior to his death. David was unable to afford to maintain an electricity supply to keep his fridge running, where he ordinarily safely stored his life-saving insulin.
The government have been presented with many other cases of extreme hardship and suffering because of sanctions, but they simply deny there is any “causal link” between the negative impacts, distress and deaths and their policies, despite the ever-growing and distressing evidence to the contrary. There is no evidence that there isn’t a “causal link” either. To establish such a link requires an inquiry and further investigation of the already established correlation between the government’s policies and adverse impacts. If the government are so confident that their claim is right, then surely an inquiry would provide a welcomed verification of this.
As it is, the government’s refusal to research and investigate the link is simply oppressive, and their claims fly in the face of established research and longstanding empirical evidence which shows that punishing people who are already experiencing hardship cannot possibly “incentivise” them to look for work, since we know that if someone cannot meet their basic survival needs (such as the physiological necessities of food, fuel and shelter), then they cannot meet higher level psychosocial needs, including looking for work.
Salford Unemployed and Community Resource Centre manager, Alec McFadden, said the DWP had imposed “unachievable” requirements for those in receipt of benefits.
McFadden added: “Illegal benefit sanctions need to be stopped and we will continue to use the law against these dangerous and illegal actions that bringing stress and the threat of suicide to so many people.”
A DWP spokesman said: “Sanctions are an important part of our benefits system and it is right that there is a system in place for tackling those few who do not fulfil their commitment to find work.
They are only used in a very small percentage of cases, and the number of sanctions has fallen substantially in the last year.”
Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.
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